The BBC’s claim it paid Jeremy Vine six times more than Newswatch anchor Samira Ahmed because he was a “cheeky” presenter is a “ ludicrous” excuse, for paying him six times more than Newswatch anchor Samira Ahmed, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.

Ms Ahmed, who has presented the BBC show since 2012, is demanding nearly £700,000 in back pay alleging her bosses broke equal pay laws by paying Mr Vine £3,000 per episode of Points of View from 2010 to 2018 while she was paid £465 for a “very similar” role.

The BBC’s barrister Rachel Crasnow QC yesterday said her producers claimed her role did not involve “light entertainment” and that she didn’t have the same “glint in the eye” as Vine.

Ms Ahmed’s pay grading was based on an HR framework covering news roles only and did not include Points of View, the tribunal has heard.

Yesterday, Claire Darwin, representing Ms Ahmed, said in her closing submissions to the tribunal in central London: “As for Like Work, it seems that the key differences relied on by the BBC are (i) the requirement that the presenter of Points of View be ‘cheeky’ and (ii) the requirement that the presenter of Points of View ‘had a glint in his or her eye’.

“However, it is ludicrous to suggest that these are requirements of a 
presenter of Points of View, as opposed to particular personality traits of Jeremy Vine.”

Referring to the BBC director of business affairs Roger Leatham’s evidence, she said: “We know that Mr Leatham, who purported to give evidence based on his own knowledge of Jeremy Vine’s career and experience, basically cut and pasted chunks of a 2019 Wikipedia entry into his witness statement.”

She added: “It is common ground that there is a gender pay gap at the BBC in favour of men. The BBC has not been able to explain why other presenters, such as [Radio 4’s The Media Show host] Amol Rajan, who presents a non-live show of less than 30 minutes, is in Band F.

“The BBC has been unable to explain why Kirsty Young was not selected for the Jimmy Young show, yet Jeremy Vine – then a relatively unknown news presenter – was.

“The BBC has not recognised that it has an equal pay problem, despite all of the evidence to the contrary. The BBC has instead promoted the mantra of ‘fair pay’, even though this is a legal nonsense.”

The tribunal was told there was no evidence that Vine’s “glint in the 
eye” or “cheeky” demeanour was taken into account when awarding his pay.

Ms Darwin said: “It seems that here the BBC is attempting to rely on undefinable factors, such as a ‘glint in Jeremy Vine’s eye’, his ‘cheeky’ look, or the extent to which his personality was injected into the programme. However, there is no evidence that any of this was taken into account.

“Further, such matters are highly subjective, and cannot possibly explain the difference between the two. Further, there is no evidence that there are no other people with similar ‘naughty glints’ available to work on PoV, or that a presenter without a ‘naughty glint’ could not have made the programme their own.”

She added: “Further, even if Jeremy was an entertainment presenter, it is not accepted that entertainment and news presenters operate in different markets, or have different market rates.

“If the BBC wanted to rely on this argument, then they should have disclosed the data.

“They have not, and cannot therefore rely on this argument now. Further, the BBC’s witnesses have exaggerated the extent to which ‘Entertainment’ talent is paid more than ‘News’ talent, and the extent that this factor played a role in Jeremy Vine’s fees for £3,000 for PoV.”

She said: “The BBC also suggested for the first time in closing submissions that standing in the footsteps or Terry Wogan, given programme history and reputation to that date, imposed additional responsibility on post holder.

“In any event, the additional responsibility on Jeremy Vine could only be the case for the first year, first season of PoV presented by him.

“Further there has been no evidence from any of the witnesses that PoV is an iconic brand, merely assertion by their legal team.

“Indeed this is a programme with ailing viewing figures that the BBC was actively considering scrapping or putting online, and which had to be filmed in the corridors of the BBC rather than in a studio.

“We know that audience figures for PoV were down to 1.3 million in 2012 and down much further by 2016 - minute by minute figures on the whole below 900,000.”

Yesterday the barrister claimed “lots of women” concerned about the gender pay gap row were being refused access to male counterparts’ pay by the BBC.
She challenged HR boss Lisa Tsalavos’s claims that less than three percent of pay queries the BBC received from staff were equal pay issues - rather than fair pay issues - which resulted in a change in pay.

She said: “What you have is 162 women who were on air having their queries resolved with a pay adjustment which results with them getting a pay increase but they don’t get back pay or interest do they?

“By categorising them as fair pay cases rather than equal pay the BBC is saving itself a lot of money isn’t it because it’s avoiding a lot of back pay and interest.”

Today she said: “The claimant relies on the BBC’s failure to provide information requested as part of the collective grievance, and in particular its failure to provide any comparator information.

“If the employer fails to answer the questions within eight weeks or answers in an evasive or equivocal way, an Employment Tribunal can draw an inference, including an inference that the employer is in breach of the equal pay provisions.”

On market pressures, she said: “The claimant submits that this is a factor that places women at a disadvantage. Professor Rubery in her evidence to the Select Commission noted that ‘men are more likely to threaten to quote for higher pay elsewhere unless they receive a bonus or a promotion’. This must surely apply to the renegotiation of long term contracts also.” 

The tribunal continues.